Superman: The Man of Steel Volume Four

Writer / Artist
Superman: The Man of Steel Volume Four
Superman the Man of Steel Volume Four review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: DC - 1-4012-0455-4
  • Volume No.: 4
  • Release date: 2005
  • UPC: 9781401204556
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

John Byrne’s rebooted Superman from the late 1980s continues, and as with Volume Two and Volume Three, this sympathetic presentation runs the content from three Superman titles chronologically, making allowances for continued stories. Superman and Adventures of Superman were the Man of Steel in solo action, while Action Comics became a fan-appeasing team-up title guest-starring other DC heroes. So successful was John Byrne’s 1986 relaunch that by the early 1990s Superman sustained four monthly titles as well as Specials, Annuals, guest shots and his semi-regular appearances with the Justice League.

First published between July and September 1987, this epic tome also includes two critical issues of Legion of Super-Heroes. The wonderment is necessarily preceded by ‘Superman or Superboy?’ which outlines the dilemma that occurred after the Man of Tomorrow’s recent retcon eliminated his entire career and achievements as the Boy of Steel.

The drama kicks off with ‘Rampage!’ by Byrne, as a petty colleague sabotages an experiment at a Metropolis lab and accidentally transforms his boss Dr. Kitty Faulkner into a super-strong rage-fuelled monstrosity. Thankfully, Superman is on hand and possessed of a cool head.

Marv Wolfman and Jerry Ordway then see the Action Ace ‘Homeward Bound!’ in pitched battle against metahuman bandits the Fearsome Five, whilst Byrne then explores ‘Better Living Dying Through Chemistry’, wherein a bizarre toxic accident turns ambulatory waste dump Chemo into a giant Superman clone. Happily, its old adversaries the Metal Men are on hand to aid in the extremely violent clean-up.

The Legion of Super-Heroes are supplied by Paul Levitz and Greg LaRocque, setting the scene for ‘A Twist in Time’ wherein a team of Legionnaires head back to Smallville to visit founding member Superboy. They find themselves attacked by their greatest ally and inspiration. The tale continues in Byrne’s ‘Future Shock’ in which a strange squad of aliens appear in his boyhood hometown. Mistaking Superman for Superboy, the Legionnaires attack and after the inconclusive clash concludes begin to piece together an incredible tale of cosmic villainy that has made suckers of them all.

When a kill-crazed Superboy shows up Byrne reveals a ‘Past Imperfect’ as the youthful and adult Kal-El’s butt heads until a ghastly truth is revealed, leading to Levitz and LaRocque’s stunning and tragic conclusion. The manipulative reality-warping mastermind behind the scheme falls to ignominious defeat at the hands of ‘The Greatest Hero of Them All’.

Back on solid ground and his own reality the one-and-only Superman then battles a new kind of maniac malcontent in ‘They Call Him… Doctor Stratos’ by Wolfman and Erik Larsen. It delivers a crushing defeat to a weather-controlling, would-be god to wrap up the never-ending battle for another day.

Such cracking, clear-cut superhero exploits are a high point in the Metropolis Marvel’s decades-long career, and these chronologically-curated collections are certainly the easiest way to enjoy one of the most impressive reinventions of the ultimate comic-book icon. Head for Volume Five.

In the revised 2020 reprints of these stories, this was combined with Volume Three as hardcover Volume Two.